Thorns, Red Stars play to scoreless draw in NWSL tournament

HERRIMAN, Utah (AP) — The Portland Thorns and the Chicago Red Stars played to a scoreless draw Wednesday in the group stage of the National Women’s Soccer League’s Challenge Cup tournament.

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Portland dominated possession and outshot Chicago’s young lineup but couldn’t manage to score in the match played without fans in Herriman, Utah.

Rookie Morgan Weaver had a good chance for the Thorns in the 14th minute but Chicago goalkeeper Emily Boyd got a hand on it and pushed it over the net. Raquel Rodriguez also had a shot from distance go just wide after coming in off the bench in the second half.

Chicago’s Savannah McCaskill had a free kick in the 85th minute that went wide.

The game was the second of the tournament for both teams. The Red Stars swapped out their lineup from the opener, with key players including Julie Ertz, Alyssa Naeher, Kealia Watt and Yuki Nagasato all on the bench. Red Stars coach Rory Dames has said he wants to give young players experience during the tournament.

Boyd replaced Naeher in goal to start the game and Cassie Miller was subbed in for the second half.

The Thorns were without Becky Sauerbrunn, who had played in the opener, because of a hip injury. Portland is also without goalkeeper Adrianna Franch for the duration of the tournament because of a knee injury. Tobin Heath opted not to play in the Challenge Cup.

Thorns goalkeeper Bella Bixby has started in goal for the Thorns in both games.

The Thorns lost the tournament opener Saturday to the defending champion North Carolina Courage, 2-1. The Red Stars fell to the Washington Spirit 2-1 in their opener.

All eight teams participating in the tournament play four group stage matches to determine seeding for the quarterfinals. The league’s ninth team, the Orlando Pride, withdrew because of positive COVID-19 tests.

The NWSL is the first professional team sports league in the United States to return to play amid the coronavirus pandemic. The teams were in training camp when the league shut down on March 12.